By David Cruz
Like a reverse leg lock, WrestleMania 29 has a grip on the North Jersey sports entertainment scene. More than $100 million worth of economic activity will be generated by Sunday’s matches, headlined by a grudge match between Champion Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and challenger John Cena.
“It’s different than a football game or a concert where it’s one event and it’s over,” said Wayne Hasenbalg, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority. “This one is — in this case — six days, so people that are flying in and getting to New Jersey are gonna stay in hotels and be here for a lot of days.”
Ready to take advantage of those tens of thousands of visitors is Doug Palsi, owner of Redd’s in Carlstadt, who was getting ready for the rush today.
“We’re prepping the same as if the Giants were playing the Dallas Cowboys at 4 p.m. It’s a huge day for us,” says Palsi. “We’re going to have a lot of people in and out of the restaurant. Our shuttle service will take plenty of people to and from MetLife Stadium and we’re looking forward to it.”
It’s also a busy time for the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce, which promotes not only the Meadowlands, but the area all the way to the Hudson River waterfront.
“Having WrestleMania in town this week just takes up the notoriety on the Meadowlands Sports Complex even to a greater notch,” said CEO Jim Kirkos. “I mean this is a world renowned event. It’s shown in 60 to 70 countries around the world. They expect international visitors from those countries to come here and it’s another opportunity to showcase the brand of the Meadowlands all around the world.”
And that means other area attractions, including family friendly sites like the Liberty Science Center and Liberty State Park. Chamber officials say the hotels near MetLife Stadium have been booked solid for months, which is good news for new hotels over in Hudson County, like the Westin, where the WWE performers are staying. In all, this is perfect practice for next year’s Big Event — Super Bowl XLVIII.
“Fortunately, the Sports Authority and the people at MetLife Stadium have been used to hosting big events over the years, so the staff here is ready and will be able to do whatever it takes to get this thing to be a great success,” says Hasenbalg.
Officials say preparations have been underway here for more than a week. Right now hundreds of people are inside, setting up a stage and preparing for an international broadcast. We couldn’t get a look inside because the WWE is very secretive about its stagecraft, but one thing that is not a secret is the economic impact that all of this activity is having on the region.